The Stream: At times, the machinations of the plot overshadow the importance of the mission.
The Big Screen: Delroy Lindo leads an outstanding ensemble and groove to some powerful Marvin Gaye songs.
The Final Bill: A great addition to Spike Lee’s filmography that will make you think while entertaining you.-Trip Fontaine
Director: Spike Lee
Writers: Danny Bilson, Paul De Meo | 2 more credits »
Stars: Delroy Lindo, Jonathan Majors, Clarke Peters, Chadwick Boseman | See full cast & crew »
Genre: Drama, War
Runtime: 2 hours 29 minutes
Platform: Netflix (released June 12, 2020)
Spike Lee has written and directed some movies that were timely when they debuted and have remained relevant throughout the years. Do The Right Thing (1989) is 31 years old, but it could have been made right now and it would feel like it was ripped from the headlines. In a way, that’s quite devastating, but it is great to have such an important talent thoughtfully creating work today. A new Spike Lee joint, Da 5 Bloods, premiered on Netflix this weekend. Let’s see how it fits in Lee’s stacked filmography.
Da 5 Bloods is the story of four Vietnam veterans returning to the country to retrieve the remains of their fallen friend after almost 50 years. Delroy Lindo plays MAGA-hat wearing Paul, who seems the most affected by returning to Vietnam. His anger is palpable and there’s anxiety at the surface on every interaction with the environment. David, an unexpected tagalong, is Paul’s estranged son played by Jonathan Majors. Clarke Peters plays Otis as the steadying force with the logistics of the excursion mapped out. Norm Lewis is Eddie, jovially masking the pain of a life lived after war. And, Isiah Whitlock, Jr. rounds out this outstanding ensemble. There is also a limited performance by Chadwick Boseman as Stormin’ Norman, the fallen soldier and erstwhile leader and moral center of the 5 Bloods. While there is an additional motivation for the remaining Bloods in the plot more than the simple conceit of recovering their friend, the importance of the Da 5 Bloods is what Lee has to say about African Americans in war for the United States and the continued discrimination that African Americans are subjected to in America. Like many Spike Lee films, come to Da 5 Bloods ready to be entertained and educated.
As a film itself, the best assets are these veteran actors who put their hearts and souls into embodying these characters. Delroy Lindo gives such a full-bodied performance that he fills up the screen whenever he’s around. It’s very visceral and engrossing. Clarke Peters and Jonathan Majors also stand out as contrasts to Lindo. Peters is soulful and steady with every moment. I’ll also mention that Marvin Gaye plays an important role throughout. Each song selection that plays drops us right back into the thick of that time – in such a complicated era. The soundtrack provides just that extra touch of atmosphere. For a movie that’s two and a half hours, it doesn’t feel like a long slog through the jungle.
My issues with Da 5 Bloods are just some strange choices that either will bother you or they won’t. There is a decision made about how to depict these characters in the past. It is jarring at first, but it makes sense why Lee made the choice, I guess. Also, I initially questioned the budget of the film when watching the first battle scene and helicopter aerial shot. It was distracting, but overall, not totally detrimental to the film. Lastly, there seems to be a tense between what the plot necessitates and what the film wants to say. They two work together in some parts better than others, which makes the film a mixed bag.
Ultimately, I would say sit back with a bowl of popcorn and let the mind of Spike Lee take you back to Vietnam with Da 5 Bloods. I don’t think you’ll regret giving this film your time.